Oh, hi there writers!
One question I get asked all the time, is how to craft a good query letter. At conferences. On Twitter. From random acquaintances on Facebook. So, what better way to help querying writers... than to start sharing a couple outstanding examples?
Welcome to my little "Perfect Pitch" series here on the ol' blog, where I'll post query letters from my clients. The queries that hooked me, and the books that sold afterwards.
Sangu Mandanna's A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE is a stunning multicultural YA space opera that draws from the Mahabharata. With the first book in the series coming out in the next few weeks (and the second and third coming out in 2019 and 2020), I wanted to share Sangu's original query letter, in hopes it'll help YOU with your pitching.
I was so excited when this landed in my inbox, that I fired off a bunch of emails to friends utterly flipping out. I read the book in three days, and offered to represent it four days before Christmas.
So! This is the query that got me:
My novel, A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE, is a YA space fantasy and a retelling of Indian mythology. The manuscript is complete at 85,000 words and is the first book of a trilogy.
Seventeen years ago, in a world of gods and stars and cities built on spaceships, the Queen of Avalon cast her infant daughter out into deep space. The baby survived by a goddess’s grace and floated through half a galaxy to the kingdom of Wychstar. There, she grew up in the dark while her twin brother Alexi grew up in golden light.
The baby is now Esme, clever, passionate and terribly lonely, and she has longed to return to her family all her life. Avalon is no longer theirs, not now that her father is dead, her treacherous uncle and cousin have seized the crown, and her mother and brothers have been banished. Esme wants nothing more than to help Alexi take back his crown and their home. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable warship Titania to the winner of a competition, the way home seems clear: Alexi is the favourite to win, their usurping cousin Max is likely to lose, and the competition seems the ideal place for Esme to reveal her identity and reunite with her family.
It all goes wrong, of course. Alexi rejects her. Angry and heartbroken, she enters the competition as Max’s champion. And wins. Titania is given to the usurpers and Esme’s choice puts her on the wrong side of an inevitable war.
You've mentioned you're interested in diverse submissions in YA sci fi and fantasy, so I thought you might be a good fit for this. This is my second novel. My first, THE LOST GIRL, was published in North America by HarperCollins in 2012 and by Random House in the UK and Commonwealth in 2013. I'm 27, live in the UK with my husband and two sons, and have a pretty alarming Netflix addiction.
Thanks very much for your time.
All best, Sangu
So let's talk about this query and why it's so great, using my favorite "the hook, the book, the cook" query construction:
The Hook: Right away, Sangu hits with the hook in her pitch. "... a YA space fantasy and a retelling of Indian mythology." I'm done. You've got me. Let's keep reading.
The Book: Sangu sums up her stunning novel in THREE PARAGRAPHS. Now, this is a genre blend of a book with scores of characters, tons of political intrigue, Gods and Goddesses, epic space battles... there's a lot in here. Yet, she dishes about it in just three paragraphs. Remember, even if there's a ton happening in your book, try to keep it at least semi-vague. Don't lay it all out there. You want your book section reading like jacket copy.
The Cook: Sangu's bio is great. She talks about her previous book (which she KNEW I was a huge fan of, even though she doesn't mention that in the query), and talks a bit about her life. She also mentions why she thought I would be a good fit for this project.
This, my friends, is perfect pitch.
A Spark of White Fire hits bookstores everywhere on September 11th with Sky Pony Press.